National Geographic : 1896 Dec
THE SAGE PLAINS OF OREGON grazing is done upon the public lands. When the price of beef or other product of grazing was high, as it was, for example, ten years ago, it was to the immediate interest of every cattle owner to fatten the largest number of stock in the briefest possible time, regardless of the effect of so doing upon the future pro ductiveness of forage. Not only is the system a bad one theo retically, but its practical effects are manifest in the actual con ditions of many portions of our grazing regions today, and if the prices of the products of grazing continue high enough to make grazing a profitable industry, the condition of affairs is bound to become gradually worse, and we shall ultimately, in section after section, ruin our grazing lands. The correction of the evil may be brought about, it seems to me, by one of three methods. First, by a system of licenses which shall regulate the number of cattle to be grazed on a given area. A similar system has been proposed for our forest lands, and some plan of the kind seems likely to be adopted. The principal objection to licenses in the case of grazing lands is that the responsibility of the government would be great and the administration of such a law would add enormously to the ma chinery of the executive. A second and perhaps preferable method is the private owner ship of land. It is evident that it is to the advantage of an owner to maintain his land at its greatest continued productive ness, and he would not, therefore, seriously over-graze it. As a matter of fact, the great cattle ranges, which are either owned by individuals or corporations, or are essentially theirs through the control of the available water supply, are in far better condition today than the public lands, which are common grazing grounds, and many of the areas thus controlled are in just as good condi tion as they ever were. A third method of securing responsible management of graz ing lands is a long-term lease from the government. The prin cipal objection of cattlemen to private ownership of land is the necessity of paying taxes. This difficulty would be obviated by a lease of the land from the government, and, even though the amount paid were small, the advantage of an interested manage ment would prove of the highest benefit to the general public, while the government would still retain its title to the land. and after the expiration of the lease could make new terms, based on longer experience and changed conditions.